In addition to Michele Kerrigan, information on this page is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween. Halloween started in Ireland over 2000 years ago. During the famine time the Irish as you emmigrate to lands such as America and brought with them their traditions hence we now have Halloween celebrated in the US and other European countries.
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival to honor the dead and of harvest, it has been reincarnated many times over the centuries into our modern celebration. of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”. A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).
The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. The Celts lived long before recorded history – for them it was the holiest day of the year and the start of the New Year. When Ireland was converted to Christianity the priests continued to allow the Irish to celebrate their festival for a few hundred years, then it was banned – but the Irish continued to celebrate it in secret.
The Catholic Church demonized everything about the old religions – which is why Halloween is considered evil. The Catholic Church also created “All Saints Day” also known as “All Hallows Day” on November First, and “All Souls Day” on November Second, to let the Celts continue to honor parted souls in a “Christian way”
The night before All Hallows Day was known as All Hallows Eve (just like Christmas Eve).
When Europeans first came to America there was no Halloween. When the Irish came to America during the potato famine they brought their festival with them. And Americans translated the customs into what they wanted them to be. (For example, A Jack ‘O Lantern used to be made out of a turnip). The Early 1900’s first saw what we would recognize as Halloween, but it was seen as an Adult Holiday, with children being allowed to participate. Halloween was cancelled during WWII. After WWII Halloween became the fun and festive holiday that we have today, with it being more oriented to children.
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The following is an Irish Blessing: